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Teaching Kids Financial Responsiblity

It’s funny how the universe works sometimes, isn’t it?  Last evening, the Littles and I had a short conversation about allowance.  Now, we don’t give them allowance though they do have chores.  What?! You may ask, aghast.  But here’s the thing.  A household is a large and difficult responsibility to run, especially if you have a farm with animals and gardens and the like to care for.  I am not giving my children chores so they can earn money.  I am giving them chores because they are part of this household and I don’t want them growing up thinking the cleaning fairy is going to come to their dorm room/apartment/house and take care of everything magically while they are out having fun.  I don’t want to raise men who expect their wives to do all the housework or who can’t take care of themselves if they don’t have a wife.

Also, I want the Littles to learn, just as Big did, that a household is a team.  Teamwork is an important lesson to learn when you’re young, and ensuring that your littles get that they’re part of the family team means you are teaching them how to pass the ball when they need to and how to go for the goal when it’s their turn.  So they have chores.  It is part of their job as a team member.  I do not get paid for doing a load of laundry.  They do not get paid for folding it.

So I explained to them that I don’t really believe in allowance.  I believe if they want extra money they can come and offer to do a job equivalent to the amount they need and we will work something out.  But their daily chores are just part of life.  They get it.  They weren’t asking for allowance, anyway.  They aren’t spoiled, but Martin and I tend to go without luxuries so the Littles can have a good childhood, so they feel ‘paid’ enough.  They were really just trying to understand the concept.

Here’s where the weirdness of the universe comes in.  I am a big NPR nerd, and I listen to it whenever I am in the car, no matter what program is playing on our local station.  Today while I was running errands, the Diane Rehm show did a feature on teaching financial responsibility to young adults.  How–creepy–is it that I was just talking about financial responsibility to my kids and then heard a program about it?  In love with that.

Anyway, there were three experts on the panel, and one was a college professor who believed that financial responsibility should be added to public school curricula.  I remember learning to write checks and balance a checkbook in a high school class, but that was more years ago than I’d like to admit… Do they not teach it anymore?  A second expert said that he was loathe to add another burden to the already overburdened public school teacher.  At first, I was a bit miffed.  Isn’t teaching kids how to live in the real world part of their job?  I  mean, yeah, personally I feel that is the parents’ job, but if you’re sending your littles to public school to learn about the world, shouldn’t they be learning about the world?

Then I thought of all the teachers I knew when I was working in the public school system.  The harried, hurried steps to make yet another common core meeting.  The frustration of knowing they had to leave some students a little bit behind in order to keep their classes ‘average.’  And yeah, maybe that guy was right.  Maybe teachers don’t need another burden.  They’re having a hard enough time making sure all their students can read.  And that’s not their fault, believe me.  It’s the fault of the system.

So it comes to us as parents to teach our kids how to be responsible with money.  The experts on the radio show had a lot of really good ideas.  Put aside three money jars for each kid.  Label one ‘save,’ one ‘spend,’ and one ‘give.’  When your child gets money from allowance, birthday gifts, what have you, have them divide the money up into each can.  When they have enough in the spend jar to buy something they really want, let them buy it.  When they have enough to make a decent donation to a worthy cause, take them to donate it.  Make them save the money in their save jar until they are ready to move out on their own.  Not too shabby an idea.

One of the panelists suggested having your teen get a job and give a percentage to you out of every paycheck for rent, groceries, etc.  That way they won’t experience culture shock when it’s time to move out on their own.  I had never really thought of it that way, but it actually isn’t a bad idea.  I was lucky that when I was a teen my parents did not buy me a car but helped me find a job and then get a loan to buy my first car myself.  I can’t thank them enough for giving me that opportunity to learn about making payments on time before I had to make rent.  They taught me that buying a child a car does not necessarily help the child–it certainly doesn’t teach the child financial responsibility.  So when Big wanted a car, he got a job and a loan and got his own car.  And he paid it off early!  He paid his own insurance and gas money.  We didn’t take a percentage of his check for room and board, but he learned about making his payments and what it means to owe money before he moved out of our house.

That’s something every child should learn in some way before they leave home for good.  We may think we’re doing them a favor by providing for them and not letting them worry about such things until they have to.  We’re not.  It is such a struggle (remember?) to suddenly be responsible for All the bills and All the cleaning and All the… everything.  It takes most people up to a year to get the hang of it once they get out on their own.  They go into debt because they don’t realize that credit cards aren’t free money.  They end up with bad credit because they don’t understand the minimum payment thing.  They sometimes even lose their first apartment because they just don’t understand why they can’t pay their rent a little a lot late.

Another fantastic suggestion was to have your littles sit down with you while you make out your monthly budget and pay your bills.  Let them see how much you have coming in, how much you have going out, and where it’s going.  I know some parents want to hide such details from their kids, but really, what good does that do them in the long run?  If they think your food, electricity, internet, and water come magically, or that your debit card is a magic money tree, they will not understand when they get out on their own why they should budget.  It might give them a worry-free childhood, but it sets them up for disappointment as adults.  Besides, if they get a grasp of where your money is going and how much of it is actually spent on them, they might start asking less for extravagances.  Win-win.

Teaching your kids while they’re young what it means to make on-time payments, how to save and be patient, how to recognize when they have a little extra to give to someone who is in need… These things will help the transition from ‘mom’s house’ to ‘my house.’  Maybe they won’t make the same mistakes we did.  Maybe they’ll have a better grasp of reality.

As for my Littles, at least they will know how to take care of themselves.  The shock of actually being the person who has to sweep and vacuum won’t be so hard on them.  And if I play my cards right, they will have a firm grasp on what it means to be financially responsible.  I have to do some more thinking on this room-and-board thing… What if you told them it was room-and-board and secretly put it into a savings account for them?  That’d be a nice surprise when they have to come up with first & last month’s rent plus deposit. 🙂

Do you have any ideas for teaching littles how to be responsible with money?  Share, share, share; I’m sure we could all use that advice.

Love wins,

KT

A Backyard Camping Trip to Celebrate Sweet Summer Time

Tips, tricks and activities to make backyard camping a blast

Our summer science class this year isn’t very outdoorsy.  The whole reason I initiated summer science four years ago was that I wanted the Littles to be able to get some Hands-On, Outside, Science Stuff Experience.  It has served us well over the years, making summer school seem less like school.  And even though it seems just as un-school-like as ever this year, that’s because they’re talking about and playing video games.  Screen-time science.  Important, I know, if they want to be able to function in today’s world.  But how am I to get them outside for some screen-less lessons when we’re studying code?

Well, the perfect solution is a backyard camping trip.  We did this last year, and it was so much fun we are still talking about it.  We took a Saturday and I set it up like a summer camp, with crafts and activities and a tent set up on the trampoline (because Mama’s back wasn’t up to the cold, hard ground).  This year we have a camper we can sleep in for our summer camp because the trampoline may actually have been worse than the ground!

Last year’s itinerary was so fun I thought I’d share my ideas with you.

Continue reading

This Crazy-Cool Country Life

I’ve mentioned often that part of the Littles’ learning process here at home is working on the farm, but I’ve never really given you much of a tour.  So today I’m going to take you on a photo tour of some of the cool things we’ve done/encountered so far this summer.

We’ve had a couple of run-ins with snakes already.  Now, my beautiful husband loves snakes and there isn’t anybody here who is afraid of them, so when my sweet mama called me and said, “Snake in my strawberry netting!” with abject fear in her voice, Martin rushed home from work and we went over to save her.  Save the snake.  Save somebody.

IMG_20150529_154922413IMG_20150529_155023776_HDRMy beautiful husband was about as patient as a person can be.  The blacksnake’s head was caught in the netting.  He had a mouse halfway down his throat that he couldn’t swallow because the netting had tightened around his neck.  Martin took his pocketknife and a pair of scissors and loosened that netting strand by strand.  Eventually, the snake coughed up his dinner, his head was extracted from the netting, and Martin set him free at the edge of the woods.  Mama Did Not put netting back over her strawberries.

Look at those muscular arms.  Swoon

Yesterday was a different story.  Littlest came running over at feeding time.  It’s his job to gather eggs.  “Daddy!” he yelled, “there’s  a snake in the hen box.”  So off we all went again to get a look at yet another blacksnake.  This one was stealing eggs.  It was so cool to witness, we just let him eat.  I mean, what’s one egg?  Right?

IMG_20150609_161721759IMG_20150609_161709971How often do you get to watch a snake suck down an entire egg?!  The Littles got to see how his jaw unhinged, how when he got to the biggest part of the egg his eyes closed, how patient he was to get that meal into his gullet and get his belly full.  We watched him for about 10 minutes.  But after the initial awesomeness, it kind of became like watching paint dry.  Apparently, it takes a Long Time for a snake to eat an egg.  The little thief.  Isn’t he beautiful?  We couldn’t even be a little bit mad.

Because it was incredible.

Snakes aren’t the only things we see a lot around this place.  Dragonflies and butterflies love it here, especially when we let the meadow grow up and provide plenty of food and hiding plabutterfliesces.  These butterflies are Everywhere.  They came and hung out on the ladder when we were working on one of the outbuildings.  They follow us around in the woods.  I think they’re trying to let us know that we might think we own this place in human terms, but really it belongs to them.  I’m good with that.IMG_20150609_164627063

IMG_20150609_163713009It’s berry season, and the wild raspberries are finally ripening.  They grow everywhere along the edges of the woods, so we spend a good part of our summer walking along the edges and gathering all that yummy goodness.  I love that the Littles are getting the opportunity to learn how to identify these plants and also learning to appreciate what the Earth has to offer us that can’t be found in stores.  (If you’ve never tasted a wild raspberry, you haven’t Really tasted a raspberry.  They are so much better than the ones you can buy in stores.)  finchesI don’t know if you can tell in this photo, but when we went out to get to the bushes between the woods and the meadow this morning, we scared up a flock of goldfinches.  They landed safely on the electric lines and chirped at us until we were out of sight.  They nest in the tall meadow grasses and we get blessed with the sight of them daily.

Yesterday, for some unknown reason, all my boys decided to go hang out on the IMG_20150609_164052305tailgate of Big’s truck.  In the blaring hot sun.  You can tell by their faces that it is too hot and bright to be hanging out on a black tailgate.  But they wouldn’t be country boys if they didn’t tailgate in some way.  So even though Littlest Still Won’t Put on a Shirt Unless You Make Him (he’s been like that since birth), I had to capture the moment.  See the turkey by the truck?  His name is Peeper, because of the loud peeping sounds he made as a baby.  He is a family pet.  He travels everywhere on the farm with us.  And scares any woman who dares show her face here with his strutting and cooing.  It’s pretty funny.

IMG_20150609_163423360Here are a couple of cool things about our veggie garden this year.  See the weird white thing at the bottom of the pic in front of the pepper plant?  That is half a bar of Irish Spring soap stuck onto a stick.  Why?  It keeps the rabbits away.  My sweet mama taught me this trick, and it appears to be working.  I guess the strong smell of the soap masks the smell of the plants.  Rabbits were tearing us up a couple weeks ago, but since we put out Irish Spring on either end of our rows, they have left it alone.  A quick spray of cayenne pepper diluted in water keeps the bugs away from the leaves of the plants.  We never use non-organic materials on our garden.  Unless you count the landscape fabric we put down to keep the weeds out.  We learned that from the GAC reality show Farm Kings.  If you’ve never watched that show, it’s a really good way to learn some new farming tricks.  You know I don’t like TV, but this show really does teach something a person can use.

This next pic shows my beautiful husband’s idea for getting my cucumber plants up offIMG_20150609_163356241 the ground so they’re easier to harvest from.  We had some old wall-racks for feeding livestock hay that we had no use for.  Instead of building a trellis, he lay them down by the plants, covered them with a piece of fencing, and the plants are growing up through them beautifully.  And, they can just be carried back to the barn in the fall with no fuss whatsoever.  He’s a genius.

But the really cool thing Martin has done around here?  IMG_20150609_163509560He built me my very own building.  Walled with bookshelves.  Containing a desk.  And electricity.  A haven for me to write in, read in, escape to when I need some quiet.  Sitting in a clearing just inside our woods, it reminds me of something out of Little House on the Prairie.  It’s my favorite place in the whole world.

Blue and Storm

Speaking of favorite things, how cute are my cats?  They totally have that brotherly love thing down.  I’m taking them to the vet today to be neutered,  and even though logically I know they’ll be okay, I have this weird, paranoid fear of anesthesia.  So wish them luck.

IMG_20150325_152457355Some of the animals we raise to sell here on the farm include rabbits, doves, and golden pheasants.  Pheasants are incredible creatures.  They look like little Samurai warriors, and their colors are breathtaking.  In comparison, the doves are like the IMG_20150504_082657032sweet version of bird on the farm.  They have soft voices, soft, lovely colors, and a gentler approach to life.  We don’t often get to see the little ones before they’re IMG_20150514_091549644learning to fly, but here’s the one pic I’ve been able to catch of them while they’re still just a few days old.  My favorites, though, are the rabbits.  I love how the little ones will cuddle against your chest until their heart rate slows and they get drowsy.  I love that the Littles get to see how they grow from birth to weaning and learn the responsibility of taking care of something and keeping it alive.

IMG_20150529_161626590There are so many things to learn on a farm.  Invaluable lessons about life that are harder to grasp in the city.  Animal husbandry.  The life cycle of mammals and how to handle death.  The miracle of birth.  Getting your hands dirty and feeding yourself.  How to tell one tree from another, one plant from another, one insect or bird from another.  Every day is a free science lesson.  I am grateful every second to get to live here.

I suppose I’d better get busy…

Love wins,

KT

This Crazy-Cool Country Life

I’ve mentioned often that part of the Littles’ learning process here at home is working on the farm, but I’ve never really given you much of a tour.  So today I’m going to take you on a photo tour of some of the cool things we’ve done/encountered so far this summer.

We’ve had a couple of run-ins with snakes already.  Now, my beautiful husband loves snakes and there isn’t anybody here who is afraid of them, so when my sweet mama called me and said, “Snake in my strawberry netting!” with abject fear in her voice, Martin rushed home from work and we went over to save her.  Save the snake.  Save somebody.

IMG_20150529_154922413IMG_20150529_155023776_HDRMy beautiful husband was about as patient as a person can be.  The blacksnake’s head was caught in the netting.  He had a mouse halfway down his throat that he couldn’t swallow because the netting had tightened around his neck.  Martin took his pocketknife and a pair of scissors and loosened that netting strand by strand.  Eventually, the snake coughed up his dinner, his head was extracted from the netting, and Martin set him free at the edge of the woods.  Mama Did Not put netting back over her strawberries.

Look at those muscular arms.  Swoon

Yesterday was a different story.  Littlest came running over at feeding time.  It’s his job to gather eggs.  “Daddy!” he yelled, “there’s  a snake in the hen box.”  So off we all went again to get a look at yet another blacksnake.  This one was stealing eggs.  It was so cool to witness, we just let him eat.  I mean, what’s one egg?  Right?

IMG_20150609_161721759IMG_20150609_161709971How often do you get to watch a snake suck down an entire egg?!  The Littles got to see how his jaw unhinged, how when he got to the biggest part of the egg his eyes closed, how patient he was to get that meal into his gullet and get his belly full.  We watched him for about 10 minutes.  But after the initial awesomeness, it kind of became like watching paint dry.  Apparently, it takes a Long Time for a snake to eat an egg.  The little thief.  Isn’t he beautiful?  We couldn’t even be a little bit mad.

Because it was incredible.

Snakes aren’t the only things we see a lot around this place.  Dragonflies and butterflies love it here, especially when we let the meadow grow up and provide plenty of food and hiding plabutterfliesces.  These butterflies are Everywhere.  They came and hung out on the ladder when we were working on one of the outbuildings.  They follow us around in the woods.  I think they’re trying to let us know that we might think we own this place in human terms, but really it belongs to them.  I’m good with that.IMG_20150609_164627063

IMG_20150609_163713009It’s berry season, and the wild raspberries are finally ripening.  They grow everywhere along the edges of the woods, so we spend a good part of our summer walking along the edges and gathering all that yummy goodness.  I love that the Littles are getting the opportunity to learn how to identify these plants and also learning to appreciate what the Earth has to offer us that can’t be found in stores.  (If you’ve never tasted a wild raspberry, you haven’t Really tasted a raspberry.  They are so much better than the ones you can buy in stores.)  finchesI don’t know if you can tell in this photo, but when we went out to get to the bushes between the woods and the meadow this morning, we scared up a flock of goldfinches.  They landed safely on the electric lines and chirped at us until we were out of sight.  They nest in the tall meadow grasses and we get blessed with the sight of them daily.

Yesterday, for some unknown reason, all my boys decided to go hang out on the IMG_20150609_164052305tailgate of Big’s truck.  In the blaring hot sun.  You can tell by their faces that it is too hot and bright to be hanging out on a black tailgate.  But they wouldn’t be country boys if they didn’t tailgate in some way.  So even though Littlest Still Won’t Put on a Shirt Unless You Make Him (he’s been like that since birth), I had to capture the moment.  See the turkey by the truck?  His name is Peeper, because of the loud peeping sounds he made as a baby.  He is a family pet.  He travels everywhere on the farm with us.  And scares any woman who dares show her face here with his strutting and cooing.  It’s pretty funny.

IMG_20150609_163423360Here are a couple of cool things about our veggie garden this year.  See the weird white thing at the bottom of the pic in front of the pepper plant?  That is half a bar of Irish Spring soap stuck onto a stick.  Why?  It keeps the rabbits away.  My sweet mama taught me this trick, and it appears to be working.  I guess the strong smell of the soap masks the smell of the plants.  Rabbits were tearing us up a couple weeks ago, but since we put out Irish Spring on either end of our rows, they have left it alone.  A quick spray of cayenne pepper diluted in water keeps the bugs away from the leaves of the plants.  We never use non-organic materials on our garden.  Unless you count the landscape fabric we put down to keep the weeds out.  We learned that from the GAC reality show Farm Kings.  If you’ve never watched that show, it’s a really good way to learn some new farming tricks.  You know I don’t like TV, but this show really does teach something a person can use.

This next pic shows my beautiful husband’s idea for getting my cucumber plants up offIMG_20150609_163356241 the ground so they’re easier to harvest from.  We had some old wall-racks for feeding livestock hay that we had no use for.  Instead of building a trellis, he lay them down by the plants, covered them with a piece of fencing, and the plants are growing up through them beautifully.  And, they can just be carried back to the barn in the fall with no fuss whatsoever.  He’s a genius.

But the really cool thing Martin has done around here?  IMG_20150609_163509560He built me my very own building.  Walled with bookshelves.  Containing a desk.  And electricity.  A haven for me to write in, read in, escape to when I need some quiet.  Sitting in a clearing just inside our woods, it reminds me of something out of Little House on the Prairie.  It’s my favorite place in the whole world.

Blue and Storm

Speaking of favorite things, how cute are my cats?  They totally have that brotherly love thing down.  I’m taking them to the vet today to be neutered,  and even though logically I know they’ll be okay, I have this weird, paranoid fear of anesthesia.  So wish them luck.

IMG_20150325_152457355Some of the animals we raise to sell here on the farm include rabbits, doves, and golden pheasants.  Pheasants are incredible creatures.  They look like little Samurai warriors, and their colors are breathtaking.  In comparison, the doves are like the IMG_20150504_082657032sweet version of bird on the farm.  They have soft voices, soft, lovely colors, and a gentler approach to life.  We don’t often get to see the little ones before they’re IMG_20150514_091549644learning to fly, but here’s the one pic I’ve been able to catch of them while they’re still just a few days old.  My favorites, though, are the rabbits.  I love how the little ones will cuddle against your chest until their heart rate slows and they get drowsy.  I love that the Littles get to see how they grow from birth to weaning and learn the responsibility of taking care of something and keeping it alive.

IMG_20150529_161626590There are so many things to learn on a farm.  Invaluable lessons about life that are harder to grasp in the city.  Animal husbandry.  The life cycle of mammals and how to handle death.  The miracle of birth.  Getting your hands dirty and feeding yourself.  How to tell one tree from another, one plant from another, one insect or bird from another.  Every day is a free science lesson.  I am grateful every second to get to live here.

I suppose I’d better get busy…

Love wins,

KT